Fabulous Faugheen takes next step on road to Champion showdown
Ryanair Hurdle (Grade 1) | 4yo and up | 2m | RTE2/ATR
Faugheen tops the bill at Leopardstown on Friday and the Willie Mullins-trained star appears to face a straightforward task against only four rivals in this €100,000 highlight.
The eight-time Grade 1 winner, who is 2-1 second favourite behind Buveur D'Air for the Unibet Champion Hurdle, made an impressive return from a long absence when trouncing Jezki by 16 lengths in the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown last month.
And Paul Townend, who rode the nine-year-old for the first time on that occasion, is savouring being back on board now.
He said: "I'm looking forward to throwing my leg over Faugheen again. He was very good in the Morgiana considering he had been off the track for so long and if he's in the same sort of form he should be hard to beat."
Townend rode Hurricane Fly to win the race in 2010 and was also successful on Unaccompanied for Dermot Weld in 2011.
Faugheen has run only once at Leopardstown, when landing the Irish Champion Hurdle by 15 lengths in January, and he will be bidding to give his trainer a sixth success in this event which Hurricane Fly won on four occasions before the ill-fated Nichols Canyon landed the prize in 2015.
Mullins is also represented by Cilaos Emery, a Grade 1 winner over the trip as a novice at the Punchestown festival.
Fourth behind Apple's Jade in the Hatton's Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse on his reappearance, his owner Luke McMahon has already enjoyed Grade 1 success at Leopardstown this week with Whiskey Sour, who won a dramatic Future Champions Novice Hurdle on Wednesday.
David Mullins, who rode Whiskey Sour, partners Cilaos Emery, who drops back in trip in a race in which Gordon Elliott supplies the three rivals to the Mullins-trained pair.
Elliott has yet to win the prize and believes it will take "a miracle" for one of his trio to change that.
He said: "All of ours look very much up against it unless something unforeseen happens.
"Campeador has fallen three times over hurdles and will need to get his jumping together, while Mick Jazz appeared not to stay when fifth in the Hatton's Grace. The shorter trip should suit him but realistically we're talking about minor prize-money for them and for The Game Changer – and there's money for all five places."
The JP McManus-owned Campeador, who was a moderate third when falling at the last in the Morgiana Hurdle, wears a tongue-tie for the first time.
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